How did she make two accidental Airbnb bookings?

No one needs more than one Airbnb rental in Paris at a time. So why did Virginia Wong recently end up with not one, but two accidental Airbnb bookings in the City of Lights?

Question

I was looking for an Airbnb rental in Paris. I saw a few rentals that interested me, so I hit request to book. In the message, I asked if the apartment was available. I didn’t hear back from the host. So I messaged him. He told me it wasn’t available, so I canceled my request. I thought the request to book process is supposed to work this way.

Then I found two more rentals I liked. Again, I hit request to book for both and again asked if the apartment was available. Within 3 minutes both hosts accepted. I was confused. Then I received a warning from Airbnb saying that I had requested to book two rentals in Paris for the same dates. So I immediately went to both of my requests and tried to cancel, but they had already accepted. I couldn’t cancel.

At this point, I was confused because I thought the host was supposed to just respond to me. I didn’t think it meant they would accept right away and charge me immediately. Both hosts have a Strict cancellation policy. I asked one host to refund my money, and he proposed a credit for sometime this year. I told him I’m not coming back to Paris this year and that I made an honest mistake. He never responded again.

I called Airbnb to explain my situation. The rep mentioned that users making accidental bookings is a common problem. But the only thing he could do was ask one host for a refund. The owner refused. I asked if Airbnb could make an exception and the agent told me no. Do you think you can help me get a refund for one Airbnb rental in Paris? I only need one! I tried to correct my mistake literally within minutes. Is this fair? Virginia Wong, New York

Answer

It does seem unfair that these two accidental Airbnb bookings couldn’t be canceled within minutes of making your mistake. After all, the company quickly detected a problem with your double reservations. And it sent you an alert of the oddity.

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So it’s curious why the system had allowed you to book both rentals for the same dates.

As part of the terms and conditions of Airbnb, you can’t book a rental for someone else.

Transparency and trust are vital to the Airbnb experience. People rely on information in Airbnb profiles, reviews, and other verifications when deciding whether to host or stay with someone.

We require Airbnb reservations booked for personal travel to be booked by the person who’s going to stay at the listing.

You, of course, are just one person. So after the confirmation of the first Airbnb rental in Paris, the system should have rejected any further reservations. There seems to be some detection program already in place since Airbnb alerted you after you made the double bookings. A more consumer-friendly program would alert the user before they made the second reservation.

How did these accidental Airbnb bookings happen?

You told me that all you did was click on the request to book button. Suddenly you had two accidental Airbnb bookings covering your stay in Paris, and you weren’t even sure that you wanted either. You wanted information.

Unfortunately, the error here is yours. That request to book button does exactly what the name implies — you requested to book both properties.

Any potential Airbnb renter should acquaint themselves with the getting started information on the Airbnb website.

If you had reviewed this information before your started clicking buttons, you would have discovered that the message center is where you can send inquiries to hosts. You should use the request to book button only once you are ready to book the property.

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You had stored your credit card in your Airbnb account. So as soon as each of the hosts confirmed the bookings, Airbnb charged your credit card.

Trying to cancel at least one Airbnb rental in Paris

Minutes after you discovered your mistakes, you tried to cancel both of the accidental bookings. Unfortunately, you had selected two properties with Strict cancellation terms. Airbnb strict cancellation terms mean you can cancel up to one week before the rental with a 50 percent penalty.

Neither the owners nor Airbnb were willing to make an exception to the accidental bookings policy. And despite your plea that you just didn’t understand the Airbnb process, the representative simply pointed you to this information about accidental Airbnb bookings:

Airbnb’s cancellation policies don’t cover accidental bookings. Even if you booked a place accidentally, you’ll be still subject to the cancellation policy your host chooses for their listing.

Contacting the Elliott Advocacy team about your accidental bookings

As you continued to get nowhere with your self-advocacy attempts, you contacted our advocacy team. I decided to contact our Airbnb executive resolution team and ask them to take a look at your case.

They reviewed your experience and reiterated that yours was a clear case of user error. Instead of “contacting the host” you “booked” the properties.

However, the good news is that the team decided to offer you a goodwill gesture this time. They will refund your money for one of the Airbnb accidental bookings. Additionally, they are providing you educational information about how to use the site correctly next time.

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You are pleased with this resolution and assured me that there will be no accidental Airbnb bookings in your future. Enjoy Paris!

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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